A sunset from an airplane (Anna Lee)
A sunset from an airplane

Anna Lee

‘On the road again’

Traveling with the Eagles

November 22, 2021

School trips take on a whole new meaning at New Ulm High School. They’re not your average day trip to a museum. These trips involve anything from road-tripping to a different state, to getting your passport and flying to another country or even continent. In the past, students have traveled to Europe and Costa Rica. The newest addition is the upcoming trip to Branson, MO.

These trips are headed by teachers at New Ulm High School, with Robert Bute leading the Europe trip, Meredith Gunderson leading the Costa Rica trip, and Jessica Koehler leading the Branson trip.

Students pose for a group picture in front of Tower Bridge in London in 2018 (Submitted Photo)

Bute, a social studies teacher at the high school, has been leading the Europe trip since 2008. Each summer, he takes a group of students to explore the many famous attractions scattered throughout the continent. Some of these attractions include the Eiffel Tower, Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Notre Dame, Collesium, and so much more. “[The students] get to see more things in two days than people who actually live there,” Bute said. Some notable cities they visit include London, Paris, Milan, Florence, and Rome. For some students, this is the first time they will be traveling without their parents. “The students get a chance to look out for each other… and do a little adulting,” Bute said. The students also get to experience a different culture and meet and interact with people from different countries. “People are people wherever you go…

A student’s photo of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France (Submitted Photo)

people are friendly,” Bute said. He adds that having these interactions with people from different cultures can help break down barriers and stereotypes. After 13 years, “watching kids experience these places for the first time, watching that excitement is why I keep going,” Bute said.

The trip to Costa Rica is new to New Ulm High School as the first trip took place early last August, led by Gunderson, a Spanish teacher at the high school. She plans to continue offering the trip only to students who have completed their second year of

A group photo of Gunderson, her husband, and the students who went on the Costa Rica trip in early August 2021 (Submitted Photo)

Spanish. It is beneficial for students to have experience in the language because “[they] are going to be understanding a new culture and [having] the opportunity to use their new language skills,” Gunderson said. On the trip, students get to participate in many fun and exciting activities such as ziplining, dancing, and going on a

A view of the landscape in Costa Rica while ziplining (Anna Lee)

riverboat cruise. They also get to swim in Costa Rica’s natural hot springs, go on a coffee tour in which they get to see how coffee is made, starting from the bean all the way to brewing, and a chocolate tour in which they get to see how chocolate is made, starting with the bean all the way to chocolate bars. This past trip, the students also helped clean and plant grass in a public park. “It’s fun seeing all the students experience a new culture… and [be exposed to] difficult situations. [I’m] proud that they pushed themselves out of their comfort zone,” Gunderson said.

The newest addition to the trip selection at New Ulm High School is Branson, MO, in March 2022. This trip is being led by Koehler, the band and choir teacher at the high school. This is her first time leading this trip, and the first time band and choir have gone on a bigger trip since she’s been teaching at the high school. “[We’ll see] how a short trip goes, and then we’ll see about a bigger trip where we fly [somewhere]. We’re taking baby steps,” Koehler said. They chose to go to Branson, MO, because it is very similar to Nashville with its musically inclined environment. While in Branson, they will go to concerts and music shows, and the band and choir will work with clinicians to perfect their concert music. “[The students] will be able to share their music and get feedback and tips and tricks on their music,” said Koehler. They will also go sightseeing, visit the Titanic museum, and have fun go-karting, wall climbing, and mini-golfing. “[It’s exciting] getting out of Minnesota and having time for the students to form closer bonds and experience new surroundings,” Koehler said.

Although these three trips are very different, they all have one thing in common: students experiencing life outside of their state, country, and even continent. That is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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